Since its inception, Hidden Talent has spoken to a great many audiences – members of the public, people who know someone with hidden conditions or have one themselves, and fellow practitioners – spreading our message about the value of employing people with hidden conditions.
But there is one demographic that, like aliens in space, is waiting to be discovered. The audience who would not only engage with our message, but also implement them.
This whole project is all about employment, and the seemingly-infinite unemployment mountain you have to climb to get there. We can shout our message to the high heavens, but the whole point of what we’re trying to do is change working practices for the better. And the only way we’re going to do that is if we can deliver our recommendations to these employers and get them to take our suggestions onboard. Nothing drastic. We’re not recommending that every employer needs to implement a panic room (not that it wouldn’t hurt), but enough to make the working environment more welcoming to young people.
And on 9th May 2017, our wish was granted.
Talent Match Leicestershire Manager Emma Southern and I arrived in Leicester in Tuesday evening sometime between 5 and 6pm… at least I think that was the time. We had just come from delivering an hour-long presentation in Wellingborough (see here), and I was in a slightly zany frame of mind thanks to an unwise combination of Haribo and Lucozade to stave off the sleep deprivation.
Anyway, back to the real world (at least I think that’s where we arrived), once we got to Leicester, we met up with Alex George, who would be on hand to present alongside us. Then we met with Zoe Atkins, the event coordinator, who gave us a warm welcome and briefed us on what we would be doing and how long we would be doing it for. Having done an hour-long slot earlier that day, I couldn’t be sure whether this would be a blessing or a curse for a guy whose body parts were worn down by time sans the mouth.
We were taken to the downstairs area of a nice little café/dining area where the room slowly filled with employers.
These employers were linked to the Prince’s Trust as Business Mentors, giving young people the benefit of their wisdom and expertise and how to progress up the employment ladder. Of course, the objective of the meeting was to give them that Hidden Talent insight into hidden conditions, considering they may very well be supporting someone fitting that profile. Emma also wanted to link Hidden Talent to the Prince’s Trust even more, giving another metaphorical pie to dip our metaphorical fingers into… just felt the need to clarify that last part should anyone reading this question our food hygiene…
Once everyone was seated, we had to be fairly sharpish with our presentation… mainly because the sound of our voices would soon be drowned out by the sound of their stomachs.
Alex and I gave our presentation around 7pm where we discussed what Hidden Talent was, and Alex’s own difficult journey with struggling for work. We boosted up Alex’s extensive capacity in IT and what a benefit it would be to any business. I had also taken the liberty of printing off some copies of my guide, “7 TIPS TO SUPPORTING HIDDEN CONDITIONS IN THE WORKPLACE”, and read out some extracts to them, typical tips to support hidden conditions on a basic level without getting into the intricacies of each condition (I think we’d need more than four sheets of A4 for that).
Now, question time always serves two benefits; firstly, it’s a positive sign that people have been taking on board what you’re saying and are eager to find out more. It also gives you the chance to go over any topics you might have missed. So, believe me, we were VERY grateful for question time(!)
There was a lot of discussion around the diagnosis, at which point the questions took a mildly personal turn about the support Alex and I had had throughout our lives, and how much of that had been impacted by our diagnosis (I had received mine at 5 while Alex didn’t receive his until his early 20s). We emphasized the numbers of people who may have gone through life unsupported, often on account of being diagnosed. And most amazingly of all, there wasn’t just a willingness to listen, there was a talk of ideas about what the mentors knew of the conditions, drawing on their own experiences with some of their previous mentees.
The calling of equality was soon overtaken by the calling of curry as everyone went to get their helpings. But the conversations didn’t stop there. Not being a curry man, I retreated to my own Temple of Tranquility AKA The Corner of the Room with the Overhead Fan.
Soon after, employers started coming over to myself and Alex to discuss the work we were doing. There were some very poignant conversations coming out from them, talking about the knowledge needed to support someone. One employer even suggested that if a young person with a HC should send over a document detailing how to support him, it would be a positive sign to him that this person was more determined than ever for the job and to do it well. This provided a lot of food for thought on our end as to the tools we could create to provide this support.
Pleasingly, many of them took copies of my 7 tips handouts – although Zoe had agreed to send them out via email.
The talks went for quite a while, at least until half 8. Of course by that time, I think it’s safe to say we were running on fumes, and thus Emma and I departed.
Of course, I felt there was still so much more we could have done with the employers, so much to discuss.
But it’ll be interesting to see where this session goes from here onwards.